Monday, November 30, 2009

My Journey of Faith: First Steps

Although my journey toward youth ministry began this summer (you can check out my story if you have not heard it yet), my journey in faith began long before, and it is continually obvious to me the ways that the path I have been walking has impacted my decisions, especially recently. My change in careers, from what I see now, has been building for years as God put my in the perfect place to hear is voice and to respond to His call.

I was brought up in the Catholic church, attending weekly Mass and religious education classes like any good Catholic. I never really enjoyed it (what 6-year-old likes getting up early, dressing nice, and sitting through an hour of something she doesn’t understand?) and remember fighting my parents a lot about going as a kid. I don’t think I every felt God in the Church, and definitely didn’t believe in God.

A big transition in my life began in the sixth grade, when I moved from elementary school to middle school. This meant new teachers, new classes, and new potential friends. See, the problem was, I didn’t really anticipate the new friends part of it, and entirely expected to keep the same group of friends I had had in fifth grade. So when those people started branching out and making new groups of friends, I ignored it and hoped it was just a phase and soon everything would be back to normal.

Well, that didn’t happen, and it wasn’t too long before I found my awkward 12-year-old self without a solid group of friends. I got depressed and angry, and my grades dropped, which caused my relationship with my parents to suffer. It became one of those vicious cycles I’d rather not relive. Anyway, when I finished sixth grade I saw no purpose in life, no point in living, and no reason to stay alive. I had no hope. But God was just putting me in a place where I absolutely needed Him, where I needed something bigger than myself, something greater than myself.

The summer after sixth grade I spent a week as Camp Carter, a place I had been to for a few years before and would continue attending a few years longer. I remember being surprised that week when counselors and other campers accepted me for who I was. It seemed that I had spent so long working to be a certain type of person, to behave a certain way, and just being loved for being me was an incredible thing to my 12-year-old mind.

It was probably a month or two later when I was visiting my grandmother in Massachusetts and she took me to see the play “Godspell.” In the version that we saw, teenagers—just a couple years old than me—played all of the parts except Jesus and Judas. The scene that hit me the most was when Jesus had been taken away and the disciples were all gathered together, mourning. Now I realize the teenagers were actors, of course, but when I looked into their eyes and saw such pain, such uncertainty, something changed for me. That these people, so close in age, could feel these things for a Man who had dies 2000 years earlier was unbelievable. In that moment, I wanted to feel that. I wanted to believe in something so deeply that it would be all I would ever need. I wanted to love someone so much that without them, my world crumbled.

This isn’t to say that I had an instant conversion in that little theatre on Cape Cod, but things started to change after that night. I began seventh grade with an entirely new attitude and a fresh outlook on life. I made friends, worked to turn my life around, and was happy for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies and key lime pie cheesecake after that, but during that summer, God filled me with hope and turned my eyes toward Him.

A lot of things have changed since those first steps of faith. I have seen God in so many different ways and my faith has been transformed by hundereds of people and events. But that is my foundation, that is where I come from. And I continue to walk forward from that day with something I had never really known before: unconditional love.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why I don’t want to be a senior pastor

On occasion, when talking with people about my plans to become a youth minister, I receive some confusion from people who aren’t entirely sure why I am not interesting in becoming an ordained minister, the senior lead pastor at a church. They don’t fully understand that being a youth pastor is my calling.

There are a lot of reasons why I am not interesting in being a head pastor. Although I know that many of these reasons are represented in some way for a youth pastor, it is the degree of responsibility and expectation that has led me to see my life and future in the way I see it now. Perhaps these sentiments will fade in time, but I genuinely do not think I will even decide to become a senior pastor at a church

1. I am not prepared to counsel anyone and everyone: As much as I loved it when youth would come ask me questions about life and God this summer, I don’t feel that I am capable of giving advice and comfort to all of the people who would walk through the doors of my church. It just seems so overwhelming to be a rock for such a wide variety of people, as well as a very emotionally draining task.

2. Giving sermons every week? No, thanks: This seems a bit hypocritical because I genuinely enjoy giving talks in front of people and sharing my thoughts and experiences. I gave five talks a week all summer, I have given reflections at a few Bible studies, I have spoken at a couple retreats, I gave two sermons at my church in high school. It is exciting for me at this point in my life to stand in front of my brothers and sisters and offer some words to reassure, challenge, and hopefully inspire them in some way. But the challenge of thinking of something relevant, practical, and real every week is terrifying. Creating entire sermon series and working to be theologically correct every single Sunday is not something I am interested in. I like the idea of giving a sermon every few months, which is what I have seen in a lot of churches.

3. I don’t want to be concerned with the numbers: I know that this isn’t necessarily a primary concern of all senior pastors, but I know that many church members and boards put pressure on the pastor to be the one bringing more and more people in and increasing or at least maintaining attendance. In my mind, the number of people coming into a church is so much less important than what each of those people is getting out of it. I am not interesting in sacrificing quality for quantity. Although churches also ask that high school pastors bring in larger numbers of youth, there is generally less pressure in that area.

4. Delegation isn’t exactly my favorite thing: My least favorite part of the summer was the one dinner each week that I was in charge of. At 4:30 every Wednesday, 10-15 youth would stroll into my kitchen with the intention of making tacos for 60-70 people. It was a little stressful, to say the least. The hardest part for me was delegating, telling each of them exactly what to do so that the whole meal wouldn’t be screwed up. There had to be enough cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions without wasting too much. The meat had to be properly seasoned and not brunt or undercooked. The sour cream couldn’t be taken out of the fridge too much before the meal started, but I better not forget it during crunch time. Suffice it to say, I hated Wednesday nights. As soon as everyone had gotten through the line and everything was replenished for seconds, I would head to the staff sleeping room and lay down for 15 minutes of peace. I only ate the meal a few times during the 9 weeks I prepared it. Basically what I am trying to say is that micromanaging and delegating suck. I hate that pressure of making sure that everyone has a job, that everyone is doing their job, and that everyone is happy. I cannot imagine doing that with a church. Give me a job, but don’t make me make other people do theirs.

5. I’m not good with the elderly: Ok, this one is kind of small and seems easy enough to fix. But I am just not good with old people. I struggle to think of what to say, I lose confidence, I can’t find my humor, and I feel completely awkward. I understand that to fix this just requires some practice, but I feel so confident about my ability to relate to kids and youth that I would much rather devote my time and energy to them. Why frustrate myself when I know that I have been given a gift for working with youth?

Essentially, what I’m saying is that I love the idea of being a youth pastor, and while some people seem to think I should be striving for something higher, I am perfectly content with my call. I don’t want all that responsibility. And no, for me being a youth pastor isn’t a stepping stone to my final career. It is genuinely what I want to do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Encounter Retreat!

I spent this past weekend leading the Encounter With Christ retreat, which takes place once every semester. The retreat is pretty much an intense, action-packed spiritual journey and it was amazing. The setup of the retreat involves multiples talks, lots of small group reflection time, prayer services, and a few other major elements like reconciliation and Mass.

My specific position on the retreat was Assistant Student coordinator, which means that I was in charge of the support team that handles the logistical aspects of the retreat. I also presented a talk titled “In Service of God’s Friendship” that discussed the importance of pouring out our lives for the people around us and working to see Christ in every person, as difficult as that may sometimes be. All in all, I devoted a TON of hours toward this retreat in the weeks and months leading up to it. In the end, it was totally worth it.

I’m bringing this up largely because it brought me back to my calling in amazing and refreshing ways. My mind was focused on God and I got to talk to so many people about my faith and the impact that the Lord has had on my life. I even spoke with my small group about my new vocation and the way that God’s timing is so mysterious and so beautiful. It was absolutely fantastic to be immersed in that mindset again, in a place where I felt so close to God.

As much as this weekend reminded me of the summer, there were a ton of differences as well, which have brought up some interesting questions. Obviously the maturity level difference from high schoolers to college students was super evident. The conversations I had felt more genuine and the people were much more open and willing to share without putting on that mask so many youth struggle with. Also, in giving my talk, I noticed such a difference in posture, eye contact, and understanding than I did giving reflections all summer. It was refreshing to see the way that the participants on Encounter were enthusiastic and thoughtful in so much of what they said.

I truly appreciated the summer and I find so much joy in thinking about being a youth minister, yet at the same time, this weekend was incredibly fulfilling, and the thought of working with young adults or even on a college campus is now something that is turning over in my mind.

I’m not saying, of course, that I have made a decision either way, but I definitely think that this weekend opened the door to a wider variety of possibilities. This is good in that I feel less limited, but it also makes an eventual decision more difficult with more options on the table.

The high school dynamic is so energetic, and youth are at such an important phase of faith development. I feel that God could do great things through me in this setting, and that I would find so much variety in the type of people I would meet.

College students who are looking for a minister or mentor have usually undergone significant changes through faith, and are often looking for something deeper and more real. They can be insightful and sincere in a way that many high school students cannot. I would have the challenging opportunity to go much deeper on a regular basis.

Whatever happens, I am grateful for what took place this weekend and the work that God did in me and so many people. Live the Fourth!

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Vision of my Church: Setting

I’ve been thinking recently about what type of church I would like to work in. Although I cannot fully predict what God has in His plan for my life, I am interested in thinking about what I am looking for in my future employer. At this point, I cannot really count anything out completely (who knows what jobs will be available when that time comes), but it is important for me to have an idea about my personal preferences.

The first aspect that comes to mind is the urban/suburban/rural question. Each of these settings creates a unique background for a church, and the type of people I will meet and the type of work I will do will be influenced by the surrounding area.

In a more rural setting, it is likely that people will travel from farther distances in order to get to my church, so scheduling events will be more difficult. In smaller towns, there is usually one high school, so everyone knows everyone, at least on a basic level. This means that each of my youth will have preconceived notions of one another and that I will need to work to break down the cliques and groups that have developed. Life far from cities also means that outside entertainment would be limited, and my youth might be coming to church just to have something to do when they get bored with rural life. Most rural areas in our country tend to lean more toward the conservative perspective, politically speaking, which isn’t necessarily good or bad, but could be both depending on how things are handled in a given situation.

I once heard someone say that kids in suburban churches often need the most love. It seems strange, but in a lot of ways this is true. In a suburban setting, teenagers are often accustomed to living according to a certain mindset, and they expect others to live up to this. For them, service trips can be a huge culture shock and often a few are resistant to looking beyond their own view of humanity. They usually lean heavily toward what is “cool” and can be quick to judge with rather shallow measurements. If a youth pastor can find a way to make excitement about worship and thoughtful discussions cool, many suburban youth are likely to jump in. In general, activities that require a bit of money (i.e. trips to the bowling alley or Six Flags or a nice restaurant) are a viable option. Parents tend to be rather involved—sometimes too involved, in fact—and are willing to contribute when they can.

Life in a city is a bit more difficult to generalize. Some metropolitan churches draw from wealthy urbanites and therefore thrive, monetarily speaking. Others in the inner city have many lower-class residents. Though many simple portrayals of urban churches don’t work across the board (neither do any of the previous generalizations, by the way), it is evident that cities have certain characteristics particular to them. For example, people tend to be more flexible and adaptable. The pace of life is quick and excitement is often seen as a necessity. One might see youth from seven to ten different high schools, many of whom would never know each other if not for church. Service can be a very significant tool as youth realize the poverty that exists so close to home and find hope through the people they serve. People who live in cities tend to be more politically liberal. Again, this could be good or bad, or perhaps neither depending on circumstances and responses.

Now the question is: where do I see myself?

Some part of me likes the thought of a rural church, of being in a place where there are already solid connections between individuals. However, I fear the tendency towards judgment and cliques because of this closeness and smallness. I also worry about the preconceived notions that the town might have about what a youth minister should do and look like and be. So I am going to say that I probably won’t make a rural church my first choice.

Although I can empathize well with the suburban mindset (I grew up in a pretty wealthy area 20 minutes outside Dallas, Texas), I am hesitant to enter into such a difficult mission field. I’m not sure if I am ready to have the patience that teens in suburban churches need. In another way—and this seems strange considering I just said how difficult it is—a suburban church would almost be too easy because it would be so simple to slip back into my high school attitude and become comfortable with unequal wealth and unjust use of resources. That is exactly the opposite of what I want. Here again, I’m probably going to shy away from the suburban setting.

Yet I am also hesitant about an urban church, at least in the heart of downtown. Regardless of money or location, city life can be complicating and demands a lot of energy. Going anywhere requires a serious game plan and a lot of effort to make sure everyone is on board and no one gets lost. Things can turn on a dime, and although I love change and am frustrated when people cling to tradition for tradition’s sake, I can see myself wishing life was a little more dependable.

I suppose my ideal setting is one of two things: 1) a church that isn’t downtown but isn’t in a suburb. The Gathering is kind of like this, but perhaps a bit too removed from the poverty of a city for what I am looking for. Or, 2) a church in a smaller city, one that has a more homey-feeling downtown, without an insane night life or extensive skyscrapers.

Wherever I end up, I pray that God will teach me amazing things through my church and through my town. I hope that I am able to be a light of His love and that my work might make a difference.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The church I attend in St. Louis, The Gathering UMC, has a six week commitment small group. Every week, those who attend learn about one of the foundational aspects of our church—such as community, service, prayer, etc—and discuss what each one means to us as followers of Christ. After the six classes, each person decides whether or not they are ready to make a formal commitment to The Gathering.

One doesn’t have to be an official member to attend the church, to take communion, to participate in small groups, but being a member of the church makes a statement that one supports the work they are doing and wants to be part of the life and vitality of the church.

When I first began attending this church last August, I thought briefly of joining the commitment class. I knew that the church was right for me and knew I would be attending for the rest of my college career. It seemed to be a good idea to learn more about the church and what it stands for.

However, as I thought about it, I realized that I would only be attending the church for two years, maximum, unless something led me to stay in St. Louis past my undergrad years. I didn’t really want to make a commitment if it didn’t mean something in the long term.

I see a commitment of any kind as a serious matter. If I say that I will be a part of something or that I will do something, I work hard to fulfill this promise. I am frustrated easily when people shrug off their responsibilities or choose one thing over another time and time again. Simply put, I don’t like when people are flaky.

This is not to say that I have never had to miss out on one thing because of a scheduling conflict, but in general I work to stay committed to what I say I will do. This is why I was hesitant to join the commitment small group. I didn’t want to just be part of the church for a couple years and then leave. I do attend the Gathering whenever I can and have joined a few different small groups. I’ve had coffee with the pastor and try to get to know the people I see each week. I feel that in my own way I have made a commitment, but to do so formally would open myself up to disappointment when I find I must leave this town.

This same situation came up in high school as well. My friend first introduced me to United Memorial Christian Church when I was in seventh grade. At that time I was still Catholic and still attended weekly Mass. After ninth grade I decided that my home church was no long right for me, and essentially stopped being Catholic to commit myself to UMCC.

I was really involved there with the youth group and other activities. A few times during my sophomore and junior year, I thought about making a formal commitment. But here again I thought a few years toward the future and knew that I would not be attending college in a place that would allow me to maintain consistent membership at that church.

I don’t really know where the next few years are going to take me, but I look forward to being able to commit to a place, to saying “This is my church. This is my home.” I will so enjoy having that place where I know I belong, where I know I can make a difference, and where I know I will grow immeasurably.

In some ways, thinking about things on such a temporary level has been difficult, but in many ways I think that it has helped me to realize how temporary things in life are and how important it is to focus on what I have now.

Although I am not a member of The Gathering, I have found so much joy and hope there. I have been challenged and encouraged, mystified and uplifted, grounded and elevated. My membership isn’t official, but my participation is. That, I think, is most important.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I mentioned a few posts ago that I want to include games as part of my youth group’s program. Although there are hundreds of awesome games, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a few of my favorites. If you want more information about any of these, let me know and I can answer your questions.

Move Your Butts: Some refer to it as “Scoot Your Boot,” some people call it “Bun Shuffle, some people have another name entirely. Regardless, I love this game as a way of allowing people to share about themselves, come out of their shells, and hopefully get a little goofy. Basically everyone has a spot in a circle (you could sit in chairs or stand on shoes or anything else as long as there are designated spots), except for one person who is in the middle of the circle. The person introduces him or herself and says something about them. For example, “My name is Mary P and I like playing ultimate Frisbee,” or “My name is Francis and I play drums.” Pretty much anything. Then everyone to whom that statement applies (ie anyone who also like Frisbee or also plays drums) will stand up and run to another open spot. You can’t sit in your own seat or the one next to you. Whoever ends up without a seat is the next one to make the statement in the middle. This game can go on for a while or only a little bit, however long you want. It works best with at least 15 people.

Human Knot: Super simple. Split into groups of 6-9 people and have each group stand in a circle. Everyone reaches out and takes someone’s hand. Make sure you don’t have both hands on with the same person. When everyone is connected, it should look like a knot of arms and hands in the middle. Once each group is ready, they all have to try to untangle themselves and get back to a circle with everyone holding hands. The thing is, you can’t let go at any point until the knot is undone. The first group to find their way out of the knot wins. This can be an ice breaker or just something to do with a bit of extra time.

Satan’s Flag: Don’t judge this one by it’s name. This game is played at nights, throughout the church (or whatever building you happen to be in), with the lights off. To begin, everyone gathers together in a certain area (we used the entrance hallway at my church) while a leader goes and hides a “flag”—perhaps a bandana or a shirt or whatever). Then each participant is given a piece of paper. Townspeople look for the flag and try not to get killed. Satan taps people on the shoulder and whispers, “You’re dead.” The Christian runs around, finds dead people, and “saves” them, bringing them back to life. When someone gets killed they die very dramatically and cannot move or talk until they get saved. Once the Christian dies no one can come back to life. If Satan kills everyone, he wins. When someone finds the flag, Satan loses. The idea is that at first no one knows who Satan and the Christian are, so you can’t trust anyone. If you have a lot of people, you can have a Secret Satan who is a townsperson at first but becomes a killer after about ten minutes (the leader would yell an announcement whenever this would take effect). You could also do a Secret Christian, who gets to save people only after he or she has been killed and brought back to life one time. This game is super fun and could go on for hours. Make sure to only use one story of the building and to have at least some small amount of lighting around anything dangerous.

Toilet Paper Hockey: exactly what it sounds like. In a large room, such as a fellowship hall or a gym, set up two plastic chairs at either end as the goal. It works well to use a tournament style, so set up some kind of round robin. Match people up and have them face off. Each person get a broom, you drop a roll of TP in between them, and the first one to get the roll between the legs of the chair wins. Sounds simple, right? Maybe even a little lame? Well things get interesting by the third or fourth game when the toilet paper has unwound itself and been pushed into bunches so that there are times when you lose the roll and can’t figure out which one you are actually playing with and which is just a pile of TP. You’ll need a whole lot of rolls. Once a roll runs out, be sure to pick up the cardboard interior to prevent too much confusion. Expect a broom to get destroyed every once in a while, too. You can keep track of winners if you want, but it is a lot of fun just for everyone to get to play.

I'll probably be throwing out another post of game ideas before too long here, so if you know of anything totally awesome for a youth group, feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

“Human Vocation”

I recently read Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ by John Kavanaugh, a philosophy professor here at SLU. It was recommended to me as a good resource in preparation for a retreat I am leading where I am presenting a talk regarding service. But toward the end I discovered this chapter (I’ve omitted a few paragraphs for the sake of brevity and relevancy):

“A vocation is a calling-forth of a person, an unfolding of a human career that starts at the earliest moments of our existence. Vocation bears the concreteness of a developing body, the stuff of genes and womb, of time and place, of family and birth. We are called out into this world, and out calling is unavoidably local: this time, this place. Now.

“A vocation is a struggle. It is the labor of becoming, of working out a mission.

“That labor, that mission is love. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians that our adulthood and the fulfillment of all our diverse gifts finds itself in love. This is the highest gift behind all natural talents and specific tasks. If there is not love, there is nothing.

“Love, then, is the core. Created by love, started by love, nurtured by love, we are only real and lasting because of love.

“Thus, a vocation is not something that merely makes us feel good, nor is it necessarily easy. Neither is life or love. For in both life and in love, vocation becomes real only through struggle, purification, and pain.

“Vocations are questioned at moments of vulnerable crisis. But crisis, that wound of choice, that terrible mark of freedom, is often the very moment of deepening life and love in us.

“That is not to say that it is impossible for a profound life choice to be shifted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But I think it is most rare. The long labor of love in crisis is not the dying of a vocation. It may only be the final birth of it.

“Those who are basically happy in their vocations have discovered this truth.

“The only ‘highest’ vocation is love itself, resounding through all our different voices.

“We live out, by the relinquishments of our lives, a wider range of God’s love than could be imagined without us. So it is with all vocations.

“The happiest people, whether single, married, parents, priest, sister, or brother, are happy not only because they have found themselves. They are happy because they have made a singular and irreplaceable divestment.

“Having found themselves, they give themselves away.

“They have been called.”

(Kavanaugh, John F. Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991. Print.)

So much of this speaks to my attitude about my calling. Even though I spent a while running away from what I now realize is my vocation, it is obvious that God spent years laying out this path for me. There are many events that I now see as pivotal to my recent decisions, which at the time I shrugged off or interpreted in different ways.

I know that what I am doing will not be easy, nor has it been easy so far, yet when I look toward my future I am so much more hopeful and so much more happy than I had been before. I look forward to what I will be doing and I know that this is where God wants me to be.

I love how Kavanaugh talks about the “relinquishments of our lives” because this speaks so much to the transformation that occurred in my attitude and my outlook this summer. I had been clinging to this idea of being a teacher, refusing to give it up because I had just put too much work into it to turn around. But when I finally let go of my own will and placed God’s will above all else, I realized how much more fruitful and fulfilling my life would be in His hands

I don’t think I would have called being a teacher my vocation. I definitely consider my life as a youth minister my vocation.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Youth Ministry

I think that it is only natural that as I consider my future in youth ministry, I am constantly wondering what my program will look like. I’ve seen a lot of different setups, some of which I have enjoyed more than others

Obviously what I do specifically—how things will be set up, what areas will be emphasized, etc—will depend on many things, specifically, the number of youth, the philosophy of the church, the existing structure, the denomination, the church’s resources, the preferences of the youth, and more. But there are definitely a few things I know I want to see in one form or another.

Service: Mission trips, weekly service, and even intermittent service activities have vastly altered my perception of what it mans to follow Christ and to live His love. I have learned so much about His hands, myself, society in general, and individual people through volunteer opportunities. I really think it is important for high school students to enter into service as a way of broadening their view of humanity and shaking them out of their routine, stereotyped lives. I want to do service trips every summer, and hopefully monthly service in our community, whether at a consistent site or at different sites.

Prayer: Ideally, every youth activity would begin and end in prayer. Occasionally, though, I would love to introduce the youth to different ways to pray, such as Emmaus walks, the labyrinth, praying through art, fasting, examens, and more. I see prayer as a beautiful opportunity to listen to God’s voice and to discover new things about ourselves, although in high school I didn’t really understand it and was too easily distracted and not directed enough to utilize it.

Small Prayer Groups: Prayer is obviously a huge part of Christian tradition, and I really love the idea of creating small groups of five or six youth to get together outside of the normal youth group time to talk about their lives and pray for one another. Ideally, I would one young adult from the church as a leader for each group, especially at the beginning as they get used to opening up and holding each other accountable.

Discussions: One of my youth pastors in high school used to call them “round tables” whenever we would sit in a circle and discuss some sort of specified topic rather than hearing a particular message or doing small groups. I see immense value in allowing students to share their perspectives, in giving them a chance to discover new aspects of their faith for themselves, and in solidifying the bonds between them. This could be a bit risky—topics would have to be well-chosen, I would have to have a good introduction to the discussion and some solid questions as well, and I would have to find a balance between cutting them off too quickly when things got off topic and allowing them to go too far on circular or repetitive tangents. Yet it is so important to allow them to learn from and through each other. I might do this once a month

Guest Speakers: I am a big fan of expanding horizons, of opening people up to new perspectives, new ideas, and new ways of looking at familiar things. And I recognize that I need that as well. I love the idea of bringing people in to talk to my future youth. Not only does this give them a chance to view topics in different ways, but it also helps liven things up when my own talking get mundane for the youth. This summer I gave 5 talks each week, one per day, and I know that there were times when the youth got tired of hearing my voice. I tried to give the other staff a chance to share their stories as much as possible. I remember being incredulous when if found out that I was going to be the only one presenting messages. So I would love to bring in guest speakers, whether they are church members, friends or acquaintances of mine, or well-know speakers. I like that this could help raise awareness of different issues, solidify beliefs and perspectives (hopefully not in a way that creates close-mindedness, though), and allow youth to find common ground with vastly different people. I’m not saying I would bring in someone every week, but maybe every couple of months or so.

Mini-sermons: That said, I do want to have some straight-up teachings every once in a while. In high school it was helpful to hear about my youth pastors’ experiences and to learn more about what I believed. I don’t want to bore them by just lecturing every week, but on occasion I think it is important to share what I have learned and will continue to learn.

Games: It might not be the most important thing, as far as changing hearts and lives, but I have so many great memories of playing games at youth group. They really bring people together, get them out of their comfort zones, and build community. Toilet paper hockey was a big one at my church, and I still recall the feeling of victory and the joy of watching people unable to play because they were laughing too hard. Although I don’t want such activities to be the focal point of my ministry, I know how beneficial they can be to the group as a whole.

Other aspects will undoubtedly come into play and exactly how often and in what way I implement these ideas won’t be discernable until I am actually in a church and able to feel out their perspective and their expectation. Until then, it’s fun to dream about it.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.